Modern Diplomacy
Russia, Cuba and ‘Emotional Geography’
Valdai Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy Boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On July 6, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion on the current state of bilateral relations between Russia and Cuba. Moderator Andrey Sushentsov, Programme Director of the Valdai Club, stressed that Cuba, as during the times of the Cuban Missile Crisis, remains one of the central subjects of world geopolitics. He also noted that Russian-Cuban relations have a long history, and in recent years have received a significant boost.

Dmitry Rozental, acting director of the Institute of Latin America of the Russian Academy of Sciences, having examined the history of relations between Russia and Cuba, pointed out that the two countries have always been close to each other. At the same time, Cuba has defended its own principles in international politics. In 2016, Russia experienced a surge of interest in Cuba after the post-Soviet chill. Trade and economic relations intensified at the same time. Today there are two main areas of Russian-Cuban cooperation – energy and infrastructure. Pharmaceutical industry cooperation is also developing. The difficulties that Russia and Cuba face in building ties at present are Cuba’s ongoing economic difficulties and the Western sanctions imposed on both countries.

Jose Ramon Cabañas, director of CIPI (Cuba), Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to the United States (2012-2021) noted that a lot is changing now – the world is in a transition period. He expressed hope that as a result of these changes, Russian-Cuban ties will become even stronger. Relations between Russia and Cuba have great potential, although this is not the relationship that linked Cuba with the Soviet Union. Recognising the importance of historical ties and historical friendship between the two countries’ peoples, Cabañas noted that in the new world, interaction should be built in a new way. He also called sanctions a common problem for Moscow and Havana. “We have very strong bilateral contacts with Russia, which are based on both mutual interests and historical ties,” the diplomat concluded.

Italian geopolitical analyst Emanuel Pietrobon argued that Europeans perceive the Cuban issue and in general everything that happens in Latin America as an internal affair of the United States. “We are talking about the so-called ‘emotional geography’ – if the country is far away, then we simply do not see what is happening there,” he explained. At the same time, Pietrobon considers Cuba one of the most important countries in the world from a geostrategic point of view. Its geographical position is such that it is possible to challenge the United States from its territory. That is why the United States has historically always tried to take Cuba under control it in its zone of influence. The Cuban revolution of 1959 broke this “chokehold”, the expert stressed, and now Cuba remains a truly independent country, whose government is guided by national interests. This, according to Pietrobon, is what is driving Washington’s continued embargo to prevent Cuba’s economic success.